Dombey and Son
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But, sometimes, when Edith went nearer to her, and bending down her
stately head, Put her cold cheek to hers, the mother would draw back
as If she were afraid of her, and would fall into a fit of trembling,
and cry out that there was a wandering in her wits. And sometimes she
would entreat her, with humility, to sit down on the chair beside her
bed, and would look at her (as she sat there brooding) with a face
that even the rose-coloured curtains could not make otherwise than
scared and wild.
The rose-coloured curtains blushed, in course of time, on
Cleopatra's bodily recovery, and on her dress - more juvenile than
ever, to repair the ravages of illness - and on the rouge, and on the
teeth, and on the curls, and on the diamonds, and the short sleeves,
and the whole wardrobe of the doll that had tumbled down before the
mirror. They blushed, too, now and then, upon an indistinctness in her
speech which she turned off with a girlish giggle, and on an
occasional failing In her memory, that had no rule in it, but came and
went fantastically, as if in mockery of her fantastic self.
But they never blushed upon a change in the new manner of her
thought and speech towards her daughter. And though that daughter
often came within their influence, they never blushed upon her
loveliness irradiated by a smile, or softened by the light of filial
love, in its stem beauty.
Miss Tox improves an Old Acquaintance
The forlorn Miss Tox, abandoned by her friend Louisa Chick, and
bereft of Mr Dombey's countenance - for no delicate pair of wedding
cards, united by a silver thread, graced the chimney-glass in
Princess's Place, or the harpsichord, or any of those little posts of
display which Lucretia reserved for holiday occupation - became
depressed in her spirits, and suffered much from melancholy. For a
time the Bird Waltz was unheard in Princess's Place, the plants were
neglected, and dust collected on the miniature of Miss Tox's ancestor
with the powdered head and pigtail.
Miss Tox, however, was not of an age or of a disposition long to
abandon herself to unavailing regrets. Only two notes of the
harpsichord were dumb from disuse when the Bird Waltz again warbled
and trilled in the crooked drawing-room: only one slip of geranium
fell a victim to imperfect nursing, before she was gardening at her
green baskets again, regularly every morning; the powdered-headed
ancestor had not been under a cloud for more than six weeks, when Miss
Tox breathed on his benignant visage, and polished him up with a piece
Still, Miss Tox was lonely, and at a loss. Her attachments, however
ludicrously shown, were real and strong; and she was, as she expressed
it, 'deeply hurt by the unmerited contumely she had met with from
Louisa.' But there was no such thing as anger in Miss Tox's
composition. If she had ambled on through life, in her soft spoken
way, without any opinions, she had, at least, got so far without any
harsh passions. The mere sight of Louisa Chick in the street one day,
at a considerable distance, so overpowered her milky nature, that she
was fain to seek immediate refuge in a pastrycook's, and there, in a
musty little back room usually devoted to the consumption of soups,
and pervaded by an ox-tail atmosphere, relieve her feelings by weeping
Against Mr Dombey Miss Tox hardly felt that she had any reason of
complaint. Her sense of that gentleman's magnificence was such, that
once removed from him, she felt as if her distance always had been
immeasurable, and as if he had greatly condescended in tolerating her
at all. No wife could be too handsome or too stately for him,
according to Miss Tox's sincere opinion. It was perfectly natural that
in looking for one, he should look high. Miss Tox with tears laid down
this proposition, and fully admitted it, twenty times a day. She never
recalled the lofty manner in which Mr Dombey had made her subservient
to his convenience and caprices, and had graciously permitted her to
be one of the nurses of his little son. She only thought, in her own
words, 'that she had passed a great many happy hours in that house,
which she must ever remember with gratification, and that she could
never cease to regard Mr Dombey as one of the most impressive and
dignified of men.'
Cut off, however, from the implacable Louisa, and being shy of the
Major (whom she viewed with some distrust now), Miss Tox found it very
irksome to know nothing of what was going on in Mr Dombey's
establishment. And as she really had got into the habit of considering
Dombey and Son as the pivot on which the world in general turned, she
resolved, rather than be ignorant of intelligence which so strongly
interested her, to cultivate her old acquaintance, Mrs Richards, who
she knew, since her last memorable appearance before Mr Dombey, was in
the habit of sometimes holding communication with his servants.
Perhaps Miss Tox, in seeking out the Toodle family, had the tender
motive hidden in her breast of having somebody to whom she could talk
about Mr Dombey, no matter how humble that somebody might be.
At all events, towards the Toodle habitation Miss Tox directed her
steps one evening, what time Mr Toodle, cindery and swart, was
refreshing himself with tea, in the bosom of his family. Mr Toodle had
only three stages of existence. He was either taking refreshment in
the bosom just mentioned, or he was tearing through the country at
from twenty-five to fifty miles an hour, or he was sleeping after his
fatigues. He was always in a whirlwind or a calm, and a peaceable,
contented, easy-going man Mr Toodle was in either state, who seemed to
have made over all his own inheritance of fuming and fretting to the
engines with which he was connected, which panted, and gasped, and
chafed, and wore themselves out, in a most unsparing manner, while Mr
Toodle led a mild and equable life.
'Polly, my gal,' said Mr Toodle, with a young Toodle on each knee,
and two more making tea for him, and plenty more scattered about - Mr
Toodle was never out of children, but always kept a good supply on
hand - 'you ain't seen our Biler lately, have you?'
'No,' replied Polly, 'but he's almost certain to look in tonight.
It's his right evening, and he's very regular.'
'I suppose,' said Mr Toodle, relishing his meal infinitely, 'as our
Biler is a doin' now about as well as a boy can do, eh, Polly?'
'Oh! he's a doing beautiful!' responded Polly.
'He ain't got to be at all secret-like - has he, Polly?' inquired
'No!' said Mrs Toodle, plumply.
'I'm glad he ain't got to be at all secret-like, Polly,' observed
Mr Toodle in his slow and measured way, and shovelling in his bread
and butter with a clasp knife, as if he were stoking himself, 'because
that don't look well; do it, Polly?'
'Why, of course it don't, father. How can you ask!'
'You see, my boys and gals,' said Mr Toodle, looking round upon his
family, 'wotever you're up to in a honest way, it's my opinion as you
can't do better than be open. If you find yourselves in cuttings or in
tunnels, don't you play no secret games. Keep your whistles going, and
let's know where you are.
The rising Toodles set up a shrill murmur, expressive of their
resolution to profit by the paternal advice.
'But what makes you say this along of Rob, father?' asked his wife,
'Polly, old ooman,' said Mr Toodle, 'I don't know as I said it
partickler along o' Rob, I'm sure. I starts light with Rob only; I
comes to a branch; I takes on what I finds there; and a whole train of
ideas gets coupled on to him, afore I knows where I am, or where they
comes from. What a Junction a man's thoughts is,' said Mr Toodle,
This profound reflection Mr Toodle washed down with a pint mug of
tea, and proceeded to solidify with a great weight of bread and
butter; charging his young daughters meanwhile, to keep plenty of hot
water in the pot, as he was uncommon dry, and should take the
indefinite quantity of 'a sight of mugs,' before his thirst was
In satisfying himself, however, Mr Toodle was not regardless of the
younger branches about him, who, although they had made their own
evening repast, were on the look-out for irregular morsels, as
possessing a relish. These he distributed now and then to the
expectant circle, by holding out great wedges of bread and butter, to
be bitten at by the family in lawful succession, and by serving out
small doses of tea in like manner with a spoon; which snacks had such
a relish in the mouths of these young Toodles, that, after partaking
of the same, they performed private dances of ecstasy among
themselves, and stood on one leg apiece, and hopped, and indulged in
other saltatory tokens of gladness. These vents for their excitement
found, they gradually closed about Mr Toodle again, and eyed him hard
as he got through more bread and butter and tea; affecting, however,
to have no further expectations of their own in reference to those
viands, but to be conversing on foreign subjects, and whispering
Mr Toodle, in the midst of this family group, and setting an awful
example to his children in the way of appetite, was conveying the two
young Toodles on his knees to Birmingham by special engine, and was
contemplating the rest over a barrier of bread and butter, when Rob
the Grinder, in his sou'wester hat and mourning slops, presented
himself, and was received with a general rush of brothers and sisters.
'Well, mother!' said Rob, dutifully kissing her; 'how are you,
'There's my boy!' cried Polly, giving him a hug and a pat on the
back. 'Secret! Bless you, father, not he!'
This was intended for Mr Toodle's private edification, but Rob the
Grinder, whose withers were not unwrung, caught the words as they were
'What! father's been a saying something more again me, has he?'
cried the injured innocent. 'Oh, what a hard thing it is that when a
cove has once gone a little wrong, a cove's own father should be
always a throwing it in his face behind his back! It's enough,' cried
Rob, resorting to his coat-cuff in anguish of spirit, 'to make a cove
go and do something, out of spite!'
'My poor boy!' cried Polly, 'father didn't mean anything.'
'If father didn't mean anything,' blubbered the injured Grinder,
'why did he go and say anything, mother? Nobody thinks half so bad of